Taking a hard look at yourself as a leader

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Most employees are striving to get to the next grade and aspire to perform at a level that will enable them to move up the ladder and eventually become a leader.

In some instances, leaders are placed in supervisory roles much sooner than expected or prior to achieving the skillsets necessary to perform supervisory roles. Today's society is so focused on comparing ourselves to others, when the real need may be to look in the mirror and take a brutally honest personal inventory.

In a perfect world, employees would perform this inventory prior to becoming a supervisor, and in some cases, proactive employees have been made aware of a character flaw and did a self-improvement exercise to address it. It may have been a speech class or the reading of a book to improve a deficiency.

In this perfect world, the highest performing employee that is in line to become the next section supervisor will also be aggressively working their multiple character flaws prior to becoming the next section chief so he or she is better prepared to lead.

An honest and thorough inventory may include asking questions that include: am I a good representative to my peers? Am I a professional? Do I spend a lot of time on personal phone calls throughout the day? Do I spend a lot of time loitering or surfing the internet?

Acknowledging shortcomings is the first step in making corrective action and most of the previous character flaws can be corrected once we are aware of them.

What about the ones we aren't aware of, like a situation where most people feel you are unapproachable (i.e. an open door policy wouldn't make any difference since you are so unapproachable). This one may take a lot of work, but you can start with asking what makes you so unapproachable?

Are the needs of your ego/pride such that you require you to be noticed or the center of attention to such an extreme that when employees come to you with their issues the attention quickly turns to you and your needs.

Your needs prevent you from displaying any empathy towards others and becomes another barrier to communication with coworkers and future subordinates.

It is imperative that current and future leaders are aware of their character flaws so corrective measures can be taken. Some flaws may only require a quick self-improvement course, book or CBT.

However, some flaws have been in existence for years, and change takes time and work. It may not be as simple as getting a mentor; it may require a writing course, role playing in order to perform an initial, mid-term or end of year feedback.

An inability to have any empathy toward others may require root cause analysis with a counselor determining why you have no empathy toward others or an inability to communicate or work well with others.
Whatever your deficiency may be, obviously, the most important aspect is performing an honest and thorough inventory; once acknowledged and accepted, change can begin.